Search Engine Optimization (and making friends with Google)
SEO is a discipline that requires constant work (and study) because Google’s algorithms (the programs-within-programs that decide which websites should be given preferred status in Search Engine Results Pages—or SERPS—are constantly changing. It’s like the ongoing technological battle between police radar and the radar detector industry; every time you, as a business, learn how to adjust your site content to make it rise higher in Google search results, Google figures out a way to recognize that it’s being “tricked,” and the algorithms change again. Ideally, your search engine optimization should change as often as Google’s algorithms change, which sometimes is weekly.
Maybe you don’t have that much time to spend on the digital aspects of your marketing; if so, US Logo is already doing amazing things for clients in Wichita and South-Central Kansas, and we can help you, too. But it’s still good to have a basic understanding of why your Internet marketing company is doing the things it does. You can’t manage what you don’t understand, so let’s take a look at the general procedures that are undertaken when you give us the reigns on your content management:
Content Optimization and Semantics:
Well, those are technical sounding words, but they’re just technospeak. Like so many web marketing strategies, they have a lot of technology behind them, but what they actually mean is pretty common-sense stuff. Content optimization and semantics, in everyday terms, mean nothing more than having the right keywords on your website, then putting them in the right places and in the right order on your pages. The process begins with choosing the right keywords.
Doug – “Google can tell if what you’re writing about is what your subject is truly about. It can tell if your page is just artificial filling with a related keyword. Google’s Panda algorithm can tell if your content about Mexican food is as authentic food really is. If your content is thin of fake Google will know. Panda is now a real-time algorithm and is scans the globe 2-3 times a week searching for thin, weak content. Make your content count. Do the work. Research your keywords across different platforms like Moz Local, AHREFs, Google Keywords Planner. See what people are using in the top searches for blogs, articles, and forums.”
Choosing the Right Keywords:
A “keyword” can be one word or several words. If you operate a Mexican restaurant, some obvious keywords for your website would be:
- Mexican food
- Mexican restaurant
- Authentic Mexican
- and so on.
But the right keywords aren’t always obvious, and you’ll need a lot of them to convince Google that yours is the site to send people to when they’re looking for information on Mexican food. Professional keyword research software tells us that people in Wichita, Kansas, are also searching for these terms:
- Mexican food near me
- Tacos near me
- Restaurante Mexicano
- Best Mexican food Wichita
- Yummy Mexican food
- Mexican cuisine menu
- and the list goes on.
A well-optimized web presence should include as many of these words as possible. Each page on your site should focus on one main keyword, but it should be sprinkled with other, related keywords called long tail keywords. Google algorithms have become very skilled at detecting “keyword stuffing,” which means plugging a keyword or two into your site as many times as possible. This actually used to work, but it doesn’t anymore. Now, your site is penalized if it looks like you’re loading it with “Google bait” without no in-depth content about Mexican food.
What this means is that, to win the top of search results, your site now needs to be more informational than ever. This makes the game more complicated because, while 2012 web pages could be optimized with 300 words and a few strategic keyword placements, a current web page needs to be 1,000 to 3,000 words long to attract positive attention from search engines.
Why is Google doing this to you? Because their online goals are different than yours.
Why the Long Web Page, Google?
Your online goal is simple: to find new customers and retain the customers you have. Google has two goals:
- Make money from companies like yours via its AdWords products.
- Strengthen their position as the number one search engine in the world.
As a marketer, you can’t do anything about goal number one except to understand what it can do for you and use it well. Understanding the implications of goal number two, however—and its constantly shifting strategies—lies at the very heart of website optimization.
Google is king of the search engines because they are the best at helping people find what they’re looking for online. Among other things, this means clearing away the search engine clutter that inevitably happens when literally millions of people and companies are selling products and services online. When someone is trying to learn how to put brake pads on a car, they want real information, not several pages of search engine results advertising every mechanic in the region. Google constantly strives to give people precisely the information they’re looking for when they don’t want to look at ads.
This creates both an obstacle and an opportunity for marketing professionals. While, a few years ago, you could create a website that solely talked about your products or services, Google has now created a digital environment in which your online presence also needs to be an information source that gives people real answers related to their searches. As of early 2017, Google’s algorithms brought these requirements into being and utterly changed the game for online marketers.
But this also creates a huge opportunity for those who know how to match their content to the current algorithm.
Now is a Time of Great Online Marketing Opportunity:
With this decline in the effectiveness of short, plug-and-play SEO content formulas, very few companies are taking the steps necessary to win the search engine results page (SERP) game. This means that the companies who embrace it and do so now have a powerful window of online marketing opportunity.
Let’s look at the basic optimization strategies that can put you on top.
Use Keywords that People are Actually Searching For:
Pretend that our fictitious Wichita Mexican Restaurant is called “El Queso Grande.” Pretend that, when you type the restaurant name into Google, it shows up at the top of the search results. This should be the case for most companies, assuming you have used the words “El Queso Grande” a few times in the text on your website, and your site has been online for a while. The problem is that when someone in Wichita, KS, wants Mexican food, they won’t type “El Queso Grande” into the search bar. They’ll type something like “Mexican food near me,” if they’re hungry, and they have car keys in their hand. That’s one of the keywords you need to win with, hence the importance of keyword research in the South Central Kansas market.
Choose One Main Keyword for Each Page of Your Site:
Actually… We will need to change this up a bit. Google’s AI is existent and it is a huge part of the Hummingbird algorithm. The algorithm that is involved in the AI part of Hummingbird and Panda, Penguin, and Payday is called the Page Rank algorithm. Here is a link: http://searchengineland.com/faq-all-about-the-new-google-rankbrain-algorithm-234440.
“That’s our understanding. Hummingbird is the overall search algorithm, just like a car has an overall engine in it. The engine itself may be made up of various parts, such as an oil filter, a fuel pump, a radiator and so on. In the same way, Hummingbird encompasses various parts, with RankBrain being one of the newest.
In particular, we know RankBrain is part of the overall Hummingbird algorithm because the Bloomberg article makes clear that RankBrain doesn’t handle all searches, as only the overall algorithm would.
Hummingbird also contains other parts with names familiar to those in the SEO space, such as Panda, Penguin and Payday designed to fight spam, Pigeon designed to improve local results, Top Heavy designed to demote ad-heavy pages, Mobile Friendly designed to reward mobile-friendly pages and Pirate designed to fight copyright infringement.”
As mentioned earlier, Google is very smart. As of 2017, it still doesn’t use artificial intelligence (although they’re working on it), but more and more, Google-bots resemble actual human readers. This means you can’t just stuff your keywords into each page without offering any real information to site visitors; Google will know, and you’ll be penalized, and your site will live forever in digital oblivion, several pages deep in the search results.
Note: If your site doesn’t appear on page one of Google search results, it’s usually as good as invisible, from a marketing standpoint. Most consumers very seldom look beyond the first page when searching for a product or service.
Although these algorithms also look for other words related to the subject they’re searching on a given page (as humans might while scanning your site), they are built around providing results for one main search term. So each page of your site should focus, first, on a keyword that truly fits its content. Then the other, long tail keywords should be folded into the rest of the text, appearing as headings whenever possible, and also appearing in the paragraphs that follow those headings.
Now, back to the keywords you should use for each page. In this example, we’ll consider three keywords from our Mexican restaurant example:
- Mexican food near me
- Best Mexican food Wichita
- Mexican cuisine menu
If you have a map of your restaurant’s location on your site, “Mexican food near me” should be the main keyword for that page. When people click through Google and find that page for that search term, they find exactly what they’re looking for; they’re happy and you’re happy. But to reach the top of the search results, you also have to make Google happy.
Having a map on the page—especially a Google map—helps. But Google-bots also want to make sure there’s actual information there, not just a sales pitch with map next to it. It’s time to get creative and add some long tail keywords to the page that will give Google the impression that this page is a good destination for lost and hungry Mexican food lovers.
It begins with the addition of a few more keywords. In addition to “Mexican food near me,” let’s use these, in our example:
- Best Mexican food Wichita
These long tail keywords will give Google the other, related keyword content it’s looking for to confirm that people should be sent to your page when they type in the main keyword, “Mexican food near me.” Not to say that your page won’t also be found in long tail keyword searches; it will, but probably won’t rank as high as it does for the main keyword. Still, every little bit helps.
So, what the heck do you write about to convince Google that you’re a good destination in its worldwide network while also providing interesting and relevant information for the humans who visit your site? Here are a few paragraph headings you might consider:
- People Come From All Over Kansas to Taste Our Quesadilla
- How Far Would You Drive for the Perfect Burrito?
- Looking for the Best Mexican Food, Wichita?
When you fulfill your mission of selling stuff, and you help Google with its mission of providing good Internet information—and you do it with the right keywords—the cash register will start ringing.
Where to put your keywords on the page
Just as important as having the main and long tail keywords on your page is their placement within the page. Google reads pages the same way you do: from top to bottom and from left to right, so the logic of your main keyword placement is actually pretty easy. Here’s where your main keyword should appear on the page:
- In the browser tab title.
- In the metatext of the page. This text is invisible to humans, but visible to Google-bots. Your webmaster can and should put this in.
- In the meta description of the page. This is the description of your site that people see on the search page results. It can also be added by your webmaster, and it should be no longer than 160 characters.
- In the first, main heading on the page. In HTML language, this is called an H1 heading.
- In the last sentence of the first paragraph on the page (just under H1)
- In one of the secondary, H2 headings under the H1 heading in which the keyword was used. H2s are more indented than H1s, but less indented than H3 headings, and so on.
- In the title and description of videos embedded in the web page.
- In the alt text and alt tag of the first or second image that appears on the page. We’ll discuss images and their alt information in the next section.
Image Optimization on Your Web Page
Add Alt Text to Images on Your Site
First of all: you need video and images on your site, no two ways about it. Google didn’t always place huge importance on this, but it does now because it tells Google-bots that there is not only strong written information here about the main keyword, but there is also visual media, which makes it much more desirable as an information source on the topic. Google can’t read pictures or recognize their content, but it can read text attached to those images in the page’s coding. This can be added by your webmaster in the form of alt text. So, what is alt text?
Have you noticed that small text boxes sometimes appear when you hover over photos and other images on web pages? This information is stored in invisible data called alt text, and it should be added to every image on your site. This hidden text gives you one more opportunity to assure bots that this web page is an authoritative destination for web users who type in the page’s main keyword. The alt text should describe what is in the image, which is its main purpose in Google’s eyes, but because the bots place such importance on it from an SEO standpoint, you should also work your main keyword into the description on the first or second image under your H1 heading.
Your other opportunity to attach text to images comes in the form of an alt tag, which can also be attached to the image with code. The purpose of alt tags is to allow vision-impaired people to hear a description of the image, so the alt tag can be identical to the alt text in many cases. One exception to this would include placing a call to action in the tag for the vision impaired. Here’s an example of that exception that might be used on an image which is a “Click to make reservations” button:
- Alt Text
Button to make reservations for best Mexican food near me.
- Alt Tag
Button to make reservations for best Mexican food near me. Click here for yummy Mexican food.
- Google also rewards or penalizes your website images based on their size. They should be between 28 and 48 kilobytes. This small but clear size also helps your page to load faster.
Again, USE VIDEOS on your website, if you have them. If you don’t have them, make some and put them on YouTube, then embed them in your web pages. This placement helps you in a variety of ways, some more obvious than others, but in the context of this article, we’ll talk about the SEO value they can bring to your site. Like well-optimized images, video optimization makes Google sit up and take notice for several reasons:
- People spend significantly more time on a web page that includes video. Google rewards you for longer site visits.
- A YouTube video with one of your keywords in its title, tags and/or description—and a link to one of your web pages that also use that keyword—heavily rewards that page on your site. This is called a landing page.
- Google knows that more and more, people prefer video to text, so the bots generally prefer pages that include video over pages that do not.
Where to Begin with SEO
The game of search engine optimization changes daily, so it’s important to stay informed. You can do a lot with the information in this article to get your SEO clicking along nicely. If you need professional help to outclass your competitors on search engine result pages, as many organizations do, visit our website at www.uslogo.net or give us a call at our Wichita, KS, marketing complex: (316) 249-2504.
Good luck, and let us know if we can help!